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March 96 - Editor's Note

EDITOR'S NOTE

CAROLINE ROSE

I'd like to make some general comments on user interface that I've been collecting for a while. Please understand I don't claim to be an expert on the subject -- and, as always, the usual disclaimer applies that my opinions aren't necessarily those of Apple Computer the corporate entity. I'm just one person who has the luxury (as well as the burden) of filling an editorial page, and this is what's on my mind.

First I'd like to make a pitch for a more obvious and responsive channel for users to give feedback on the experience of working with your software: What bugs them about it? Do they have suggestions for improvement? It seems that such feedback gets lost if it's delivered through the usual customer support (bug-reporting) vehicle. Or maybe it gets delivered to the wrong person, like the engineer who designed and implemented that feature in the first place and can give 99 excellent reasons for why it was done that way. When I first returned to Apple from NeXT and had to use a lot of new applications, I encountered a number of interface glitches that were short of being bugs but made using the applications unnecessarily awkward. I suggested a few simple fixes through the customer support line, sensing some interest but the assignment of a low pri - ority. Alas, those annoying features are all still there five years and a couple of upgrades later.

This ties in with a peeve that I share with many of my computer -using friends who don't work in this industry and so have that valuable perspective of a pure end user: Please avoid making spurious interface "improvements" that change the basic way I work with your application. Be sure there's a real benefit to the user before you change command names, rearrange them in menus, or put new features in my face rather than making them options I can explore at will. You may think you're making the interface friendlier, but in fact you may be alienating your existing customer base. The changes that I most appreciate are those that smooth out the rough spots of the interface as it is, so that, for example, I won't have to resize every mail window to fit my screen, or select the text in the Find box every time I do a new search. I want these nuisances eliminated; instead, I find the upgrade to be just another big nuisance.

We interrupt this list of grievances to announce another list we just learned about: develop has been cho - sen by Internet Valley, Inc. as one of the top 100 computer-related magazines and journals on the Web (http://www.internetvalley.com/top100mag.html). I'm happy enough about this to quit my griping about user interface for now -- though I do see a tie-in here: we've always encouraged and responded to com - ments from our readers, and we've tweaked our content and format accordingly rather than done a com - plete overhaul. Thanks for all the valuable feedback over the years ; please keep it coming so that we can keep improving.


Caroline Rose Editor

CAROLINE ROSE (AppleLink CROSE) has been a technical editor for so long that she says she can do it with her eyes closed. And that's exactly what she did after being felled by a detached retina during her last vacation. Lying down for over two weeks with her lids shut and not much to do except listen to books on tape, she welcomed the occasional phone call on a develop-related editorial question. Getting back to work and realizing how much catching up she had to do was a real eye-opening experience. *

 
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